There was never much question who Juan Martin del Potro would be facing in the semifinals at Wimbledon this year.
The No. 8 seed has been impressive in his own right throughout the tournament, but few have matched the dominance of Novak Djokovic as he eyes his second Wimbledon victory. For Del Potro to find success against the world No. 1 in pursuit of his first Wimbledon final appearance, he’ll have to play mistake-free tennis every step of the way.
Neither player has lost a set to this point, and with both Del Potro and Djokovic on cruise control, one of the two will be in for an awakening when they square off on Friday.
Let’s break down the match and highlight some keys to victory for each player, focusing on what Del Potro and Djokovic have done to find success to this point in the tournament.
Staying the Course
No one makes it to the semifinals of any major event without playing tremendous tennis. For Del Potro and Djokovic, nothing could be more true.
Both players have been in top form, cruising through each round with little resistance. While the road hasn’t been free of minor bumps, each competitor should have immense confidence entering this matchup.
Each player will face a series of challenges to overcome to escape this matchup unscathed, but both should focus on what has gotten them to the semifinals.
For Djokovic, there really hasn’t been a flaw to improve upon in this tournament. His anticipation, execution and focus have been superb, and there’s little reason for him to change his approach in the semifinals.
Similarly, Del Potro has found success against Djokovic in recent years, and having played exceptionally well through five rounds, the No. 8 seed has no reason to make adjustments now.
If both players stay the course in this match, fans should be in for a treat. It’s reasonably safe to assume the winner will likely lose at least one set in this contest.
In Djokovic’s round of 16 match against Tommy Haas, the 26-year-old ran into a third-set snag that exposed a weakness Del Potro should look to exploit in this contest.
Many questioned Haas’ age and fitness level entering that match, but the 35-year-old continued to duel with the world No. 1 to force a tiebreak in the third set—a tiebreak created by Haas’ propensity for making Djokovic work tirelessly on the baseline, rally after rally.
Djokovic looked winded during that set, and if Del Potro can replicate those long rallies on a consistent basis, he may find the No. 1 seed much easier to break down in a five-set match.
But Del Potro is dealing with his own fitness issues, brought on by a knee injury sustained in the quarterfinals against David Ferrer, as noted by Wimbledon’s Twitter feed:
While Del Potro went on to win the match in straight sets, one has to wonder how his knee will affect his performance in the semifinals.
Regardless of prior performances, deep runs in any tournament require tremendous fitness and top physical form. If either player falls short of that criteria, this match could prove to be a lopsided affair.
Silencing the Service Game
Del Potro boasts an impressive serve that could give Djokovic problems in the semifinals. The world No. 1 struggled in the return game at times against Haas, eventually leading to a back-and-forth third set and tiebreak in the round of 16.
But Djokovic also topped 130 miles-per-hour on several serves in that match, and against top opponents on an unfavorable surface—as he noted in this tweet—his serve could be an equalizer against a hobbled Del Potro.
Again, Del Potro’s mobility may be a concern, and if Djokovic is in top form in that facet, he’ll have the upper hand and an inside track to the final.